World must ease pain of Ye­men’s hidden war

The West Australian - - OPINION - Melissa Parke

‘Idon’t want to live any more,” said the man stand­ing in the rub­ble of his de­stroyed home.

His teenage daugh­ter be­side him burst into tears and the younger daugh­ter looked up at him, not un­der­stand­ing.

The air strike, in the UNESCO World Her­itage old city of Sana’a, had come with­out warn­ing in the mid­dle of the night killing all other mem­bers of their fam­ily, leav­ing them home­less.

They had no con­nec­tion to any of the war­ring par­ties to the con­flict in Ye­men but were among its tens of thou­sands of civil­ian vic­tims.

“What is his name?” I asked the mother sit­ting on the bed at the hos­pi­tal in Sana’a next to the ema­ci­ated body of her child.

“Her name is Amal”, cor­rected the mother softly, “it means hope”.

Heart­break­ingly, this tiny girl is among the 81⁄2 mil­lion Ye­me­nis on the brink of famine aris­ing from the se­vere naval and air re­stric­tions placed on Ye­men by the Saudi-led coali­tion.

“Please help us to find our sons and hus­bands,” pleaded the Ab­ductees’ Moth­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, de­scrib­ing the ar­rest and dis­ap­pear­ances of their loved ones.

One mother re­counted hav­ing re­ceived her son’s life­less tor­tured body back, with­out ex­pla­na­tion, af­ter his dis­ap­pear­ance two years ear­lier.

The moth­ers have been bravely hold­ing pub­lic demon­stra­tions in Sana’a and Aden to de­mand an­swers, to de­mand due process and jus­tice from par­ties to the con­flict.

These pleas have not only fallen on deaf ears, but worse, have led to vi­o­lence, threats and in­tim­i­da­tion from author­i­ties. Among those de­tained in Ye­men by both sides of the con­flict are jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights de­fend­ers for hav­ing the temer­ity to re­port the truth or ex­press an opin­ion.

In the north of the coun­try, prac­ti­tion­ers of the Baha’i faith have been tar­geted by the Houthis, one leader sen­tenced to death ear­lier this year in Sana’a af­ter a trial that nei­ther he nor his fam­ily were al­lowed to at­tend.

In the south, con­sis­tent re­ports have emerged of se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties con­trolled by the UAE, in­clud­ing large scale sex­ual vi­o­lence. Women and chil­dren in Ye­men are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, due to dis­place­ment, poverty and an at­mos­phere of in­dis­crim­i­nate vi­o­lence.

Chil­dren have been re­cruited by both sides to par­tic­i­pate in the con­flict.

The con­flict in Ye­men, now in its fourth year, is a man-made dis­as­ter that has dev­as­tated the coun­try’s health and wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture and re­sulted in the deaths and maim­ing of count­less peo­ple.

Yet, the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis is also one of the world’s most ne­glected.

The coali­tion’s air block­ade of Sana’a in­ter­na­tional air­port and the pro­hi­bi­tion of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions trav­el­ling on UN flights to Sana’a has con­trib­uted to the news vac­uum.

Last week the UN-ap­pointed Group of Em­i­nent Ex­perts re­leased the re­port of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which found that se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and war crimes had been com­mit­ted by all sides of the con­flict in Ye­men.

The re­port noted lit­tle at­tempt by the par­ties to min­imise civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

Among its rec­om­men­da­tions, the Group of Ex­perts called on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to re­frain from pro­vid­ing weapons that could be used in the Ye­men con­flict.

It is the very least the world can do to pre­vent the fur­ther suf­fer­ing of tens of mil­lions of in­no­cent Ye­meni peo­ple.

Melissa Parke was ap­pointed by the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights in De­cem­ber 2017 as a mem­ber of the Group of Em­i­nent Ex­perts on Ye­men. The Group’s re­port will be con­sid­ered by the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil later this month.

Pic­ture: Melissa Parke

Chil­dren in Ye­men.

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